whiptips – advice on stuffing softies

by kath_red on 04/02/2007

in News+Letters

Whiptips craft advice column for readers to ask questions or offer advice by leaving comments. Whiptips archive here. Questions to whiptips@gmail.com.

Lucy from My Byrd House has a question about making soft toys:

I have started making them at home and am looking for good tips and information on stuffing and turning them. I am looking for what is best to stuff them with and tools for stuffing and turning.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kate February 4, 2007 at 8:18 am

I love the softies you have been making Lucy! I can’t live without my hemostats for turning and stuffing. A good tip someone gave me a while ago for corners like hands and fingers was small stitches and trim the seam afterwards – it stops most of the ‘puckering’ effect.

2 Miss Dot February 4, 2007 at 10:32 am

I use stainless steel surgical tools to get the stuffing into the small areas. I picked mine up at a garage sale.

3 Lisa K. February 4, 2007 at 11:16 am

Hi, Lucy!

I’m pretty new to making soft toys, but I’ve found that a nice lacquered (is that spelled right?!) chopstick is great for turning small points and limbs. It’s the pointier kind, rather than the big-tipped kind. It’s too slippery for “grabbing” stuffing very well, so to stuff small areas, I use a pencil with a clean eraser. The stuffing sticks to the eraser, helping you to place it just right.

4 Rachael February 5, 2007 at 6:35 am

Hi Lucy, I don’t make many stuffies/softies/toys, but when I have I use a plastic chopstick that was given as a freebie with a cooking magazine years ago, it works a treat. It’s tapered with a flat edge up top and a round edge, perfect for little legs! I once went to a doll class by a designer who stole her kid’s “pick up sticks” game pieces for the same use!

There are a few online bear/doll supply shops which sell surgical tools for “grabbing” and turning, they are “officially”called either haemostats or forceps but are often just craft forceps which make for easy turning etc.
Punch with Judy (Aus on-line store) sell them here http://www.punchwithjudy.com.au/shop/product.php?productid=2332&cat=0&page=1

I’ve read that wool stuffing is really nice to use, I think you can get it from Waldorf/Steiner school craft supply online stores. I just use fibrefill, but would love to explore more natural options.

Hope this helps!

5 Keith Phillips February 7, 2007 at 6:29 am

My mom is a doll maker and I help stuff bodies occassionally. We use assorted hard wood dowels, sometimes snapping them in half allows the splinters to catch the fiber fill and push it down. Also – to avoid lumps use smaller pieces of stuffing, and pull stuffing apart before stuffing (fluff it). This is especially true if you want a very firm body without lumps. I also saw some “teddy bear” shops use a converted leaf blower/vac to blow stuffing into the body, but I can’t say I’ved tried it. Would love to get me mum one of these if they work!

6 tamdoll February 8, 2007 at 1:54 am

I use fishing pliers (or hemostats) found in the fishing dept. of big department stores. They are indespensable to me, like an extension of my fingers — I use them for turning and stuffing. When things are smaller, I use a “turn-it-all” tool that I think I got from the HomeSew catalog. When things are at their tiniest, I’ll make a slit in a coffee stirrer and use that and the back end of a paint brush to turn things right side out.

7 jellibat February 8, 2007 at 1:07 pm

I have no speciallised tools, i just grab the nearest crochet hook of suitabl size for pushing out corners, but always remeber to clip your curbes well, and trim excess seam allowance fabric on tight /small areas )

But I think others covered turning I so some ideas on filling ..

there are also different types of pollyfill stuffing, good quality and poorer qualities (usually reflected in the price) but they do serve different purposes.

by feeling it you can tell the more expensive softer springier stuff from the cheaper denser stuffing.

the soft springy more expensive polyfill is better for creating softer cuddly toys. as it wont ‘ball up’ or go lumpy, and springs back in shape, and fills the toy with less.

the denser cheaper fills are better for over stuffed solid feeling toys. you do need to fluff it more and be more careful about stuffing to prevent the lumps and you will use a lot more.

you can also use plastic pellets to weight a base of a toy. it is best to sew them into thier own seperate bag if using in a toy, and put a few achoring stitches to keep the bag in the correct spot, or you may end up with the plastic beans or pellets travelling to the wrong places inside the item, or worse if the toy does come apart at the stitches it will not only make a mess or possiblly cause choking hazards to small children.

I have seen a lot of people use dried beans, and rice etc..in side toys, instead of plastic pellets, but I suggest not to do that, as it can be a problem . specially if you want the item to last, as it can attract rodents, or if it gets damp it can develop mould and rot .
and it can also be a customs problem if sending the item overseas.

for heirloom teddys, some people use traditional woodchip/ wood straw for stuffing, this really is only for collectable bears as its not considered suitable for children anymore, as it is highly flamable.

8 janet says February 10, 2007 at 1:30 pm

Hemostates all the way. The go where no other tool will, placing the filling just where it is needed. I get mine at Fabricland and at a medical supply store. I am amazed at how much my work has improved.

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